Are you recovering from an eating disorder or disordered eating? And are you in need of snack ideas?
When healing your relationship with food, snacks are vital. If you’re like many of our 1-1 nutrition therapy clients, they struggle to think up disordered eating recovery snack ideas.
They know they should be snacking, but they don’t know on what.
We’ve done the work for you: welcome to the ultimate guide to eating disorder recovery snacks!
Why snacks are important in recovery
If there’s a time snacks are most important, it’s when you’re in recovery from disordered eating.
Snacks are a normal part of any way of eating, eating disorder or not.
But they’re extra important when you’re renourishing after struggling with disordered eating. There are many reasons why snacks are important, including:
- To renourish your body with energy and nutrition after engaging in eating disorder behaviours.
- Snacking increases variety in your diet too – essential for taste and enjoyment, your gut health, and to consume an array of vitamins and minerals.
- Snacks help maintain your energy levels so you’re not famished or fatigued between meals.
- It gives you the chance to combat food fears. Some of our most recommended snack options include fun foods. Think cake, chocolate, pastries, crisps, etc. These tend to be foods higher in energy too, and so are needed in recovery.
- Snacks give you an opportunity to check in with yourself between meals. We like to think of snacks as pockets of time for you to engage in your recovery and have a break too.
What counts as a snack?
It’s tricky to say specifically what counts as a snack. It varies depending on the day, how much you’ve been active, how hungry you are, and your weight restoration and renourishment needs.
Snacks are usually something that fills half to a whole side plate (6 inches in diameter), like the one pictured below:
Most eating disorder recovery snacks should fill one of these plates. If your snacks aren’t filling the plate most of the time, you might be having too little.
Our method for building snacks
We recommend you include 2-4 components, across the five food groups.
We break snacks down into 4 categories: starchy carbohydrates, protein or fat, something fun, and something fresh.
Choose 2-4 components, one from each of the categories.
This ensures you’re having variety, different nutrients, and hopefully feeling satisfied with the snack.
Eating disorder recovery snack ideas
Now that it’s clear how we build snacks, let’s give you some specific examples.
These are eating disorder recovery snacks, but we haven’t included exact quantities. That’s because you’re unique and because our approach to nutrition isn’t prescriptive.
- A flapjack, milk, and grapes
- Cereal, granola, or protein bar. With milk or chocolate milk
- Toaster waffle or pancake with Nutella and strawberries
- A chocolate chip muffin, strawberries, and cashews
- A bowl of tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa
- Two English muffins with biscuit spread or chocolate spread
- A green apple with crunchy peanut butter and a glass of banana milk
- 6 wholegrain crackers with cheddar cheese
- Pitta pizza, like this one
- Avocado toast with seasame seeds on top
- Toated pitta bread, garlicky olives, and homous
- A hot chocolate with a scone and butter
- A wrap or sandwich (yes this can be a snack!)
- Trail mix (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate) with a banana
- Raisin toast with butter and strawberry jam
- Toast with boiled egg
- Milky latte with an almond crossiant
- Popcorn with chocolate nuts and, a peach
- A tropical smoothie and pretzels
- Oat cakes with mushroom pate, and a banana
- Ants on a log (celery, peanut butter, and raisins on top)
- Chocolate covered marshmallows
- Yoghurt with berries and chia seeds
- Tortilla wrap with ham slices and salad, with orange juice
- Homemade energy ball with apple juice
- Bagel with tuna mayonaise
- Half an avocado fill in the hole with tuna (add seasoning/some oil/dressing)
- Crumpet with nut butter + jam
- Ryvita-type cracker with hummus, avocado, or olive tapenade. Add rocket on top with a spicy sauce
- Oat cakes with Lotus spread (cookie spread)
As you can see, literally anything can be a snack!
It takes time to figure out what works for you. Most of our clients need to include a starchy carbohydrate and protein source with every snack, so we recommend starting there.
Snacks in recovery: FAQs
Snacks sound simple. But in our 1-1 clinic, they bring up a lot of questions.
Let’s dive into the most common…
I just cannot eat this much, what do I do?
Start with what’s comfortable. You don’t need to go from eating no snacks to eating snacks with 4 components.
Our clients often find starting with a piece of fruit, and adding some protein or fats work well.
If you can currently handle an apple for snack. Could you add a small amount of peanut/almond butter? Could you have a small piece of malt loaf and butter with it?
If you currently have nothing for a snack, try going for something in the “fresh” category first. Then add a starchy carbohydrate, protein/fat, and fun component.
How to do I know how much to eat at snacks?
We hear you. We’ve given you a list of 40+ snacks, but you’re wondering how much of each component to eat.
There’s really no set answer. It depends on your specific needs.
We recommend starting with a recommend portion size of each component, and testing if that works.
If you find yourself still hungry or you need to eat less than an hour later, you need more.
How much to snack if you’re weight restoring
Weight restoration is when you regain the weight you lose during your eating struggles.
Snacking is vital, as getting all the energy you need just from meals is very difficult. It’s common to have to eat every 1-2 hours.
This guide isn’t intended as a weight restoration guide, as this requires 1-1 help. We recommend using these snack ideas as a starting point and working with one of our eating disorder specialists.
Do you need to snack if you don’t need to gain weight?
Yes definitely. It might be in slightly smaller amounts.
It’s normal in recovery to eat “more” than you think you should, even when you aren’t weight restoring
Do I need to have snacks if I binge eat?
Yes. If you’re binge eating, often a root cause is not eating regularly enough. Or not eating quite enough is making other root causes worst.
We understand that you want to eat less, not more if you binge eat. But think of regular eating and snacks as your “binge eating recovery medicine.”
Do I still need to snack if I struggle with bulimia?
Yes, because bulimia depletes your body. You need to replenish what you lose through purging and/or restriction.
Our clients struggling with bulimia often find snacks easier to manage than meals. This is because they’re smaller and don’t bring on the urge to purge.
Can I just have one thing for snack?
Having only one food group per snack is not enough energy or nutrients.
Also, having just one component for a snack is pretty boring!
How can I feel less stressed about eating snacks?
Snacks are a normal part of eating. And they’re essential in recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating.
Eating regularly is the first part of re-nourishing. Even if you feel like you eat enough, going long periods without eating isn’t good for your body.
Doing it is the only way to feel better about eating regular snacks. Take committed action to eat 2-3 snacks per day. You can then use coping tools to feel less guilt or stress about it.
How can I come up with my own snack ideas?
We have given you 40+. You can simply mix and match these.
We also recommend walking around the supermarket and choosing 1-2 new snack options.
It’s key that the snacks you choose are easy for you to make. You don’t want complicated snacks you have to handmake every day. Convenience and pre-packaged options are probably the best idea.
We hope this snack guide has been helpful. As with anything in recovery, patience and persistance are key.
Offer yourself self-compassion that you’re trying your best. Eating in recovery is incredibly difficult. So try to make it as easy as possible for yourself.
We would love to support you in your recovery if you need it. You can get in touch with us to explore support.
We often share more snack ideas on Instagram, so make sure to follow us over there too.